Five Theories about Romney’s selection of Ryan

Posted on August 14th, 2012 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy

2012 Presumptive Republican Presidential Ticket

I will start this post out with the disclaimer that I am just a dumbass with a blog, noodling on things that interest me.

After Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee, I became very curious about who he would select as his running mate, and am surprised that he picked Paul Ryan.  Picking Ryan doesn’t make any sense to me because, as far as I can tell, Ryan will primarily appeal to folks who would have voted for Romney anyway.  So, from that perspective, it seems to me that picking Ryan was ‘preaching to the choir’, in a sense.

Also, it seems to me that if the selection of Ryan is going to have any impact at all, it will be to alienate swing voters, who tend to be moderate.  Based on current polling numbers it seems that Romney needs as many of those voters as he can get.

So, why would Romney pick such a polarizing running mate?  I offer five theories below, in order of likelihood from least to most (with a bonus sixth theory that is probably the most likely of all):

Theory #1: Romney doesn’t want to win, and has picked a running mate that will insure that he loses.

It is not possible for me to know why Romney wouldn’t want to win, and there is no evidence of it that I’m aware of (other than his selection of Ryan).  But, because he has picked a running mate that I think he knows will hurt his chances, we have to at least consider this option.  I speculated along these same lines in 2008 when McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Theory #2: Romney knows that he is going to win, so he picked whoever he damn well pleased.

How could Romney *know* he’s going to win?  It could be that he has an ace up his sleeve that he knows will be devastating enough to win the election (dirt on Obama, etc).  It could also be that there is some currently-hidden aspect of Ryan that will emerge and swing the election for him.  It could also be that the power brokers have arranged things such that a win for Romney is the most likely thing.  In any case, if Romney felt supremely confident that he was going to win regardless of his selection of running mate, he may have gone ahead and selected the running mate who will most boldly represent the Republican strategy, and that’s Ryan.

Theory #3: Romney knows that he isn’t going to win, and so picked a running mate for politically expedient purposes.

In this scenario, Romney has realized that there’s no way he can win for whatever reason (polling numbers, tax return issue, etc), and so he picked his running mate in order to maximize whatever positives there are that can be gleaned from a losing presidential bid.  For example, it may be that

CleverDonkey’s Final 2012 London Olympic Power Rankings

Posted on August 12th, 2012 in Engineerboy,Politics,Sports,Television by EngineerBoy

London Olympics 2012

2012-08-12 Final Sunday Update

This year we once again tracked Olympic Power Rankings for the 2012 Games in London.  For reference, the 2008 final rankings are located here. The purpose of this chart is to look beyond raw medal count – who cares if countries with hundreds of millions (or even billions) of people win a lot of medals?  They should win a lot of medals, right?  The big question is, which country is kicking ass, pound-for-pound?  The answer is in the table below.

This table creates a weighted medal score by giving every country three points for each gold medal, two points for each silver, and one point for each bronze.  The country’s Power Rating is calculated by determining how many weighted medal points each country wins per 10,000,000 in population.  And to factor in economics, the population only includes those living above the poverty level (according to CIA poverty estimates).  Also, to eliminate the impact of outliers, countries with excessively large populations are capped at 300,000,000 and countries with exceedingly small populations have a floor of 2,000,000 for the purposes of calculation.

Below is the Sunday update, reflecting the final standings.  Congratulations to Hungary for taking the title of the most powerful Olympic nation, pound for pound.  The rest of the top ten are rounded out by Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Cuba, Jamaica, Belarus, the United States, and the Czech Republic.

Well, that wraps up another Olympics, be sure to check back in four years because we will (probably) be tracking them again!




CleverDonkey’s 2012 Olympic Power Rankings
click column headers to sort up/down

Olympic Power Rank Country Old Power Rating New Power Ranking! Gold Silver Bronze Total Medals Weighted Medals Population (above poverty line)
1 HUN - Hungary 43.14 37.00 8 4 5 17 37 8,577,282
2 AUS - Australia 28.66 28.66 7 16 12 35 65 22,682,201
3 GBR - Great Britain 26.15 26.15 29 17 19 65 140 53,545,320
4 NZL - New Zealand 58.64 26.00 5 3 5 13 26 4,434,060
5 NED - Netherlands 25.37 25.37 6 6 8 20 38 14,978,787
6 CUB - Cuba 24.00 24.00 5 3 6 14 27 11,247,925
7 JAM - Jamaica 106.22 24.00 4 4 4 12 24 2,259,366
8 BLR - Belarus 34.81 24.00 3 5 5 13 24 6,895,247
9 USA - United States 8.44 22.50 46 29 29 104 225 266,579,208
10 CZE - Czech Republic 21.97 21.00 4 3 3 10 21 9,558,825
11 CHN - China 1.63 19.00 38 27 22 87 190 1,166,805,100
12 KAZ - Kazakhstan 18.23 18.23 7 1 5 13 28 15,361,812
13 DEN - Denmark 35.15 17.00 2 4 3 9 17 4,836,400
14 AZE - Azerbaijan 19.47 16.00 2 2 6 10 16 8,219,239
15 RUS - Russia 12.46 15.50 24 25 33 82 155 124,368,673
16 KOR - South Korea 15.01 15.01 13 8 7 28 62 41,293,000
17 SWE - Sweden 14.74 14.00 1 4 3 8 14 9,495,113
18 CRO - Croatia 36.95 13.00 3 1 2 6 13 3,518,302
19 UKR - Ukraine 12.49 12.49 6 5 9 20 37 29,632,961
20 GER - Germany 12.29 12.29 11 19 14 44 85 69,170,855
21 GEO - Georgia 29.55 12.00 1 3 3 7 12 4,061,333
22 ROU - Romania 11.98 11.98 2 5 2 9 18 15,024,877
23 FRA - France 10.93 10.93 11 11 12 34 67 61,298,300
24 SUI - Switzerland 13.51 10.00 2 2 0 4 10 7,403,871
25 LTU - Lithuania 32.68 10.00 2 1 2 5 10 3,060,192
26 NOR - Norway 17.91 9.00 2 1 1 4 9 5,025,600
27 ESP - Spain 8.91 8.91 3 10 4 17 33 37,040,929
28 KEN - Kenya 8.89 8.89 2 4 5 11 19 21,374,500
29 ITA - Italy 8.72 8.72 8 9 11 28 53 60,813,326
30 IRL - Ireland 18.45 8.00 1 1 3 5 8 4,335,898
31 CAN - Canada 7.91 7.91 1 5 12 18 25 31,591,858
32 SLO - Slovenia 38.79 7.00 1 1 2 4 7 1,804,673
33 SRB - Serbia 10.78 7.00 1 1 2 4 7 6,494,047
34 MGL - Mongolia 40.48 7.00 0 2 3 5 7 1,729,152
35 JPN - Japan 6.16 6.60 7 14 17 38 66 107,125,200
36 TRI - Trinidad and Tobago 54.86 6.00 1 0 3 4 6 1,093,703
37 TUN - Tunisia 5.84 5.84 1 1 1 3 6 10,268,196
38 PRK - North Korea 5.70 5.70 4 0 2 6 14 24,554,000
39 RSA - South Africa 5.54 5.54 3 2 1 6 14 25,293,379
40 POL - Poland 5.01 5.01 2 2 6 10 16 31,955,830
41 SVK - Slovakia 11.62 5.00 0 1 3 4 5 4,301,806
42 DOM - Dominican Republic 9.16 5.00 1 1 0 2 5 5,459,372
43 COL - Colombia 4.44 4.44 1 3 4 8 13 29,278,616
44 IRI - Iran 4.09 4.09 4 5 3 12 25 61,096,681
45 LAT - Latvia 19.32 4.00 1 0 1 2 4 2,070,371
46 ARM - Armenia 18.57 4.00 0 1 2 3 4 2,153,942
47 FIN - Finland 7.39 4.00 0 1 2 3 4 5,413,250
48 BEL - Belgium 4.31 4.00 0 1 2 3 4 9,286,674
49 GRN - Grenada 460.83 3.00 1 0 0 1 3 65,100
50 BAH - Bahamas 93.53 3.00 1 0 0 1 3 320,768
51 EST - Estonia 28.10 3.00 0 1 1 2 3 1,067,745
52 PUR - Puerto Rico 8.05 3.00 0 1 1 2 3 3,725,789
53 BUL - Bulgaria 5.21 3.00 0 1 1 2 3 5,759,094
54 BRA - Brazil 1.97 2.80 3 5 9 17 28 142,358,607
55 UZB - Uzbekistan 2.78 2.78 1 0 3 4 6 21,551,316
56 ARG - Argentina 2.49 2.49 1 1 2 4 7 28,081,967
57 ETH - Ethiopia 2.35 2.35 3 1 3 7 14 59,699,259
58 MNE - Montenegro 34.54 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 579,107
59 CYP - Cyprus 23.84 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 838,897
60 BOT - Botswana 14.08 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 1,420,645
61 GAB - Gabon 12.79 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 1,564,000
62 QAT - Qatar 11.77 2.00 0 0 2 2 2 1,699,435
63 MDA - Moldova 7.62 2.00 0 0 2 2 2 2,623,352
64 SIN - Singapore 3.94 2.00 0 0 2 2 2 5,076,700
65 GUA - Guatemala 2.95 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 6,768,331
66 GRE - Greece 2.32 2.00 0 0 2 2 2 8,630,152
67 POR - Portugal 2.31 2.00 0 1 0 1 2 8,660,523
68 TUR - Turkey 1.77 1.77 2 2 1 5 11 62,095,868
69 VEN - Venezuela 1.52 1.52 1 0 0 1 3 19,710,969
70 UGA - Uganda 1.40 1.40 1 0 0 1 3 21,410,870
71 MEX - Mexico 1.31 1.31 1 3 3 7 12 91,891,288
72 ROC - Republic of China (Taipei) 1.29 1.29 0 1 1 2 3 23,261,747
73 MAS - Malaysia 1.10 1.10 0 1 1 2 3 27,257,438
74 ALG - Algeria 1.05 1.05 1 0 0 1 3 28,567,000
75 BRN - Bahrain 8.10 1.00 0 0 1 1 1 1,234,571
76 KUW - Kuwait 2.79 1.00 0 0 1 1 1 3,582,054
77 TJK - Tajikistan 2.73 1.00 0 0 1 1 1 3,666,000
78 HKG - Hong Kong 1.41 1.00 0 0 1 1 1 7,103,700
79 THA - Thailand 0.83 0.83 0 2 1 3 5 60,175,617
80 IND - India 0.09 0.80 0 2 4 6 8 907,645,067
81 AFG - Afghanistan 0.61 0.61 0 0 1 1 1 16,320,064
82 EGY - Egypt 0.61 0.61 0 2 0 2 4 65,934,400
83 KSA - Saudi Arabia 0.37 0.37 0 0 1 1 1 27,136,977
84 MAR - Morocco 0.36 0.36 0 0 1 1 1 27,729,125
85 INA - Indonesia 0.15 0.30 0 1 1 2 3 205,963,737

Scott’s ‘Homemade’ Meat+Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce

Posted on January 29th, 2012 in Engineerboy,Recipes by EngineerBoy

I was never able to find the spaghetti sauce that I wanted, so I decided to figure out making it for myself.  You see, I wanted a combination of a meat sauce and a vegetable sauce, and could not find a restaurant or a recipe that fit the bill.  Note that this is ‘homemade’ only in part, as it includes marinara from a jar.  I have made it completely from scratch, and it’s good, but it’s wayyyy too much work and it takes wayyyy too much time, and it’s only slightly better/different, so the marinara from a jar is simply a nod to the realities of a hectic lifestyle.

This recipe makes enough for four people, plus a healthy helping of leftovers – as with all spaghetti sauces, it’s better reheated the next day.  Ingredients as follows:

3 jars Newman’s Own Marinara sauce
2 lbs. lean hamburger
1 sweet onion
8 cloves garlic
1 bunch asparagus
2 green squash
2 yellow squash
2 cups mushrooms
8 tbsp olive oil

Heat a large skillet on medium, add 2 tbsp olive oil, and saute half the garlic and onions (both diced) for 4-5 minutes, then add the ground beef, and salt and pepper to your tastes.  Let the meat continue to brown while chopping the rest of the vegetables.

Finely dice the rest of the garlic and the other half of the onion, and keep them separate from the rest of the vegetables as they will be cooked separately.  Cut the asparagus into .5″ to .75″ lengths, making sure not to include the woody base of the stalks, which can be tough.  Slice each squash in half lenghtwise, and then slice each half in half again lenghtwise, so it is in long quarters, then thinly slice making little pie-shaped chunks.  Slice the mushrooms thinly.

Heat a large pot on medium, add the remaining 6 tbsp of olive oil, then add the onion and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables.  Continue cooking the vegetables for another 10 minutes, until they begin to get soft.  At this point the meat should be close to done browning – when it’s browned, drain any fat, then add to the vegetable pot.  Add the three jars of marinara, and stir.

Reduce head to medium-low, so that it cooks at a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.  That’s it.  I occasionally juke it up with fresh basil or oregano, but it’s not strictly necessary.  I also sometimes add broccoli, but only some of the time since it turns it into a much chunkier, more vegetable-ier sauce.  We have taken to eating over Barilla Pasta Plus spaghetti, which has protein, omega-3s, and fiber, but tastes like regular old empty-calorie pasta.  And don’t forget some freshly-grated parmesan!

There’s nothing magical here, but I can say that this sauce is universally popular, and we always end up eating all the leftovers as well.  It is also a unique combination, in my experience, of a meat sauce and a vegetable sauce, and it’s something

The coming Muslim-Christian coalition in the US?

Posted on December 28th, 2011 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy

Can't we all just get along? Probably not any time soon...

Disclaimer: the article below represents the noodlings of a dumbass who is talking about things way over his head, but which he nonetheless found interesting as a mental exercise.

James Buchanan was the first bachelor US President.  JFK was the first Roman Catholic President.  Richard Nixon was the first to resign from office.  Barack Obama was the first African American President.  That leaves some interesting milestones still ahead of us, such as first female, first (openly) gay, and first (openly) atheist/agnostic.

I think there’s a good chance that we’ll hit all of those milestones, at some point, and that it’s just a matter of ‘when’.  I also think we’ll hit them in that order (female, gay, secular).  And I also think that as we hit each milestone, it will create a greatly increasing disturbance among conservative US voters.

The first milestone, female, will not have any overtly negative reaction at home or abroad.  There have been plenty of female heads of state, and anybody who publicly takes issue with that will be nearly universally condemned as a backwards nincompoop.

However, the next one (first gay) would set up the beginnings of a political holy war, as the groups who are anti-gay are really committed to being anti-gay.  These are people who put the behavior of same-sex consenting adults in the same category as child molestation or bestiality.  They will see a gay US President as the beginning of the end of the world, and will fight against it appropriately.

But the last one (first secular) would potentially set up an actual Holy War (notice the caps).  There was a recent survey that showed that people of faith trust atheists to the same level that they trust rapists.  Yes, really.  And a group with that outlook is going to work diligently (to say the least) to prevent it from happening.

Just as an exercise (not a prediction), I could see the future of Presidential politics progressing thusly (major party candidates, unless otherwise specified):

2012 – Obama re-elected, possible female VP (Clinton)
2016 – female President
2020 – gay VP nominee
2024 – gay Presidential nominee
2028 – secular serious 3rd party Presidential candidate
2032 – gay President, secular VP nominee
2036 – secular President

Yes, that goes 24 years into the future, and that seems like forever.  But consider if we were to look backwards, 24 years ago was the election of George H.W. Bush.  Not that long ago, for some of us.  Again, that is not a prediction as much as one possible future outcome, the likelihood of which is open to debate.

However, regardless of the actual dates and progression, I think we’ll eventually see female, gay, and secular presidents in the US, and that that progression of events will stir ever increasing ire among conservative Christian US voters.

Interestingly enough, there is another group whose reactions would, in my estimation, parallel those of conservative Christian US

America’s Economic Bipolarity

Posted on December 23rd, 2011 in Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy

Income Equality (lower is more equal)

I’m a data person, and any time I have conceptions, preconceptions, prejudices, opinions, or assumptions, and there are relevant data available, I like to challenge my own opinions with facts.  One opinion I hold is that the United States is losing ground on being the ‘Land of Opportunity’ from an economic perspective.

I’ll stop here to state that I understand I’m talking about ‘first world problems’, and that the average American has it pretty good compared to the average world citizen.  Also, I’m not an economist, sociologist, futurist, or any other kind of credentialed -ist (other than ‘technologist’), so these are just the noodlings of an interested observer.

That being said, the people that put together the CIA World Fact Book seem to know a lot of things about a lot of things, and they share a portion of what they know via their public site.  The charts you see on this page are direct translations of their data into graphical form, and all credit/blame for that data goes to them.

One of the things they gather and post information about is relative income equality for countries around the world.  They share that information on this page:

The chart on the top right shows the Income Equality of the largest 100 countries (by population) from the CIA table, where a larger number is less income equality, and a lower number is more income equality (I know that’s counter-intuitive, but I didn’t develop the GINI scale).  So, the countries to the left-hand side of the chart are the most unequal from an income distribution perspective, and those on the right are the most equal.  The thumbnail view of the chart is pretty small (click chart for larger view), but the red line is the United States, and the green lines are the rest of the G8 countries.  You can see that the US is the left-most G8 member, meaning the one with the least equitable income distribution.

That sucks.  What it means is that the gap between rich and poor is pretty wide.  I think we can all look back over the last few years or decades and see that this has been happening, so although our place in the bottom third of countries isn’t a complete surprise, being the worst of the G8 nations is a bit disheartening.

Income Equality Trending (higher means increasing inequality)

I think that an impartial observer would agree that things are not good from an economic perspective in America today.  However, we have a legacy of bouncing back from adversity and overcoming obstacles.  Are we doing that here?

As you can see in the chart to the right (click chart for larger view), we are not only not improving, but are continuing to get worse.  In fact, only two G8 nations

How I went from loving to loathing TiVo…

Posted on August 28th, 2010 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Product Reviews,Technology,Television by EngineerBoy

I still *want* to love you, but you're losing me

Dear TiVo,

I read two articles recently that spurred me to write you this letter.  The first article described how at the end of July 2009 you had 3.05 million subscribers, but at the end of July 2010 you were down to 2.38 million.  Five years ago this would have surprised me, but not any more.

The second article was from your site, describing the spiffy new QWERTY TiVo remote with a sliding face and a full keyboard.  I was overjoyed by the news, as I’ve been waiting for a remote like this since I bought and activated my first TiVo back in 2002.  I read the article in great anticipation, wondering how pricey the remote would be.  Hm, $90.  Not unreachable, but seemingly a little steep, which would make it in keeping with everything else you sell.

But then I got to the last paragraph, where the last sentence read:

“The new remote will work with TiVo Premiere, Premiere XL, TiVo Series3, TiVo HD, and TiVo HD XL boxes.”

No Series 1?  No Series 2 or Dual-Tuner?  Leaving us faithful early adopters behind again, are we?

Typical.  This is typical of everything I have come to expect from you over the years.  I still love TiVo-the-technical-solution, but with TiVo-the-company I have gone from love to like to not caring to being annoyed and, finally, to loathing, where I am today.

I now own and use 5 (count ’em) TiVos, but they are all Series 2.  My disillusionment began in earnest when you released the Series3 boxes, and included things like YouTube browsing that were not made available to Series2 owners.  Now, you had a story for why this was so, which was something about Flash, I think, but I didn’t (and still don’t) buy it.  If you had wanted to make it work, you could have.   But, you chose to have those features and functions be differentiators to try and get Series2 owners to upgrade.

So close, and yet so far away

And it’s continued to be that way over the years, up through the latest insult of not letting us have the new remote (pictured at left).  You continue to add new and improved features and functions, very few of which are made available to your existing base of owners, unless they have the latest and greatest.  Now, I understand this from a business perspective, as I work in technology, so I know that it’s hard to keep the installed base happy.  It’s very easy to add new features and functions to totally new and redesigned devices, and your bean-counters are happy to see the R&D and other expenses that go into anything that will grab new customers and dollars.

I can visualize the meetings where you discussed the strategy of

Dear prissy couple from my flight (and a desperate plea to airlines for offset seating)

Posted on August 28th, 2010 in Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy

Typical US Airline Flight

I loathe and despise coach business air travel.  When I travel personally, it’s usually with Marie, and we usually plan to make sure we can travel in comfort.  You see, I’m 6’5″ and not svelte, and coach seating is not designed for me to fit in comfortably, and when we travel for pleasure we either wait until we can splurge on first class, buy a third seat so we have room, or make the best of sitting side-by-side.

However, when one’s company is footing the bill and you don’t have the flexibility that you do with personal travel, you get the seat you get and you have to make the best of it.  You can try for exit row or bulkhead, but those seats are in demand and sometimes hard to get.

Lucky for me, on my most recent business flight I was able to get the exit row aisle seat both outbound and inbound.  The flight out progressed without incident (thankfully), but as I boarded my flight home and approached my row, I noticed that the two inside seats were occupied by a couple, with the man by the window and the woman in the middle seat, meaning that my aisle seat would place me next to the wife.

Now, although I am a big guy, I can sit in such a way that I stay completely in my own air/leg/shoulder/butt space, particularly in an exit row where I can fully extend my legs.  So, I resolved myself to spend 3.5 hours in my polite, curled up, as-motionless-as-possible seating pose, so that the lady next to me would not feel infringed upon.

As I sat down I could sense the woman was not happy about the situation…I mean, who would be?  Even three normal-sized humans sitting side-by-side-by-side in a coach cabin is oppressively claustrophobic, and when one of the three is a big guy like me it just makes it worse.  So, I understood her pained look at her husband as I sat down, and also understood his reassuring patting of her leg as if to say, “It’s okay, honey, I won’t let the traveling ogre squash you!”

So, I sat down, belted up, stuck my legs up under the seat in front of me, crossed at the ankles to keep my knees clearly in my own airspace and not in any way crossing over into her leg space.  I folded my arms tightly, with the arm closest to the woman specifically tucked up as far as possible, so that I was clearly not infringing on her shoulder room, either.

I had also brought a couple of magazines to read, and when I pulled them out I held them with my arms almost fully extended in my lap, and when I turned the pages I did it with my arms fully extended so that my elbows didn’t bend and momentarily reduce her personal airspace.  I also fully ceded the armrest

Disposing of a Window Unit Air Conditioner in Texas – argh!

Posted on July 23rd, 2010 in Brenham,Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy

Don't lose your cool...

We recently replaced two of our old, crappy window unit air-conditioners with newer models.  The new units were from Home Depot and the installation was do-it-yourself, and when I was done I realized that I had two undisposable hunks of junk to deal with.  You can’t just throw away a system loaded with refrigerant, so I figured all I had to do was figure out how everybody else did it, then do that.

My first strategy was to ask at the local recycling center here in Brenham.  They said I could probably take them to the collection station (dump), so the next time I went to the dump I asked at the office if they would take window unit air-conditioners.  They said they would, as long as all the coolant had been recovered by an authorized contractor, and the units were officially tagged as being empty.

That sounded good, so I started calling the local AC contractors around town, and found that 90% of them responded with “we don’t work on window units”, 5% took a message and called me back looking to schedule a coolant recharge, and 5% had no idea what I was talking about (and/or feigned ignorance because they didn’t want to do it).

At this point I’ll clarify that I clearly expressed that I was willing to pay a fee for this service, I wasn’t looking for it to be done for free, or anything, and still no takers.  I finally started doing some serious web searching and found this site:

Which bills itself as “Official Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program”, and that link goes to their list of recycling partners.  That list looked very promising, especially when I saw that all Best Buy locations were drop-off locations that take room air-conditioners, as shown here:

Problem solved?! Nope...

With a song in my heart and a ‘green’ aura, I figured my problems were solved, so I loaded up the air conditioners (one of which was a 25,000 BTU model weighing 200+ pounds) and prepared to get rid of my albatrosses…albatrossi?…albatri?  Before heading out I figured I’d make a quick call to my local Best Best buy to confirm, and that’s when I got the bad news – they didn’t take air conditioners.  They didn’t really care too much about the fact that they were listed on the Texas site as being an authorized recycling center that took window units, it was no dice.

I figured I’d double-check on the Best Buy website, where I found this:

Confirmation of misinformation, frustration

I figured, oh well, just some miscommunication and/or old information, no worries, and I’ll just work my way down the list of

Iron Man 2 (***)

Posted on May 10th, 2010 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

"If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him."

Iron Man 2 is a not-disappointing sequel, however it’s also not as entertaining as the original.  But, there have been only a very few sequels that equaled or surpassed their predescessors, so that’s not surprising. 

What was surprising, for me, was the understated performance by Mickey Roarke as Ivan Vanko (right), Iron Man’s nemesis with a family grudge in this installment.  Calling his performance “understated” is an…well…understatement, because Vanko is of course a larger-than-life comic book villain.  However, within that context, Roarke’s performance is carefully restrained and excellently realized.

Also well cast and well characterized are Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, head of a competing defense contracting firm, and Garry Shandling (Garry Shandling?!??!?) as Senator Stern, Iron Man’s foe in the Senate who is looking to have the government own (and exploit) the underlying Stark technology.  Scarlett Johansson also does a good job as Natalie Rushman, Tony Stark’s new assistant who is “from legal”.

The story…well…the story gets us from Point A to Point B very effectively, but it felt like a transition piece instead of a complete story.  That may be the way it has to be for movies based on comic books, since the comics have been around for decades and have much more story material than can be compressed into a movie (or two, or three).  However, it seems like a movie of this caliber should at least strive to end at a more momentous and climactic juncture.

The film-making is also sloppier than in the first one.  As an example, there is a sequence where Tony Stark appears as Iron Man at his own Expo (about the size of a World’s Fair) and is attacked by an army of drone robots.  These drone robots are similar to Iron Man, can fly, and are packed with advanced weaponry.  Iron Man takes off with the fleet of drones in hot pursuit, launching a continuous stream of weapon fire at him.  Does Iron Man fly as far away from the gathered expo-attendees?  No, he spends five minutes swooping and diving around the Expo, causing the drone-fire to strafe the crowds of innocent bystanders below, over and over and over and over again. 

He has no reason to hang around the Expo, there’s nobody he needs to rescue, nothing he needs to disarm or defeat, and if he had simply headed as far and as fast away from the Expo as he could he would have saved many, many lives.  In fact, after his 5 minutes of induced-strafing-of-the-innocents, he finally wises up and says something like, “Holy crap, I better get away from the Expo!”, and then zooms off.  Narcissistic personality disorder, indeed.

But, overall, it doesn’t disappoint, which is a bit of faint praise, but also a bit of a relief.  I really liked the first film, and was very worried that the sequel would go off the rails.  It didn’t.  It

My dogs eat Scotts® Organic Choice® Lawn Food

Posted on May 8th, 2010 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Product Reviews by EngineerBoy

Dogs eat it, flies swarm to it

I thought I’d try to be a little more gentle on the environment and use an ‘organic’ fertilizer for our yard.  I found Scotts® Organic Choice® Lawn Food at the local Home Depot and decided to give it a try.  I just spread it this weekend so I can’t speak to its greening or healthifying effects on the lawn, but I can state, unequivocally, that my three dogs and every fly in the general area *love* it.

I first spread it on the front lawn, without any drama, and the only slight warning sign was the very…er…’organic’ smell of the stuff.  However, it smelled like it could be a rich source of nutrients, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Then I spread it in the back yard, where our dogs have access to the fenced yard.  I locked them in the house while I spread it, and as soon as I finished and let them back out all three of them started snuffling around the entire yard like prized truffle pigs.  Things took a turn for the worse when I noticed that all three of them were also licking the grass and ground and ingesting the fertilizer grains.

I also noticed that there were flies all over the yard, landing randomly all over the grass, apparently drawn in by the organic lawn food.  Note that I’m pretty meticulous about keeping our yard clean of doggie bombs, so the appearance of swarms of flies is not normal.  Also, the flies weren’t hanging around any dog piles, they were all over the yard.

I locked the dogs back in the house and figured I’d try watering the Scotts into the yard and see if that would help.  It didn’t, it only seemed to add an irresistable ‘gravy’ to the granules and made even more attractive to my dogs and the flies.

So, now, here I sit with my dogs locked in the house with my hamster on its hamster bed(It’s in a cage), waiting for the time when (I hope) the Scotts has lost its mojo enough that my dogs won’t continually graze on it.  The stuff claims to be safe for kids and pets, and there’s even a picture of a kid and a pet laying in a grassy yard on the label, but I bet this stuff isn’t designed to be a dietary supplement.

I checked the Scotts site here, but they don’t have any helpful information, and as of the time of this posting the “View Label” button on that page returns:

“We apologize for the inconvenience, but this information is no longer current and accessible.”

Similarly, the ‘FAQ & Help’ tab says:

“Sorry, no F.A.Q. material for this product is available.  If you have product questions Scotts experts are available by email and phone in our Help Center.”

Which neither answers my questions nor is helpful.

So, if you’re like me and you’re

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